Friday, 16 June 95 Washington, DC
1. YERGIN TASK FORCE ON STRATEGIC ENERGY R&D PUNTS FROM
In December, just two months after Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary
named a high-level task force to prioritize DOE's applied energy
R&D programs (WN 14 Oct 94), President Clinton announced a $1.2B cut
in energy R&D, from its current level of $2.5B, to help pay for a
middle-class tax cut (WN 23 Dec 94). And many Republicans, who see
such research as "corporate welfare," want to cut deeper still. But
instead of setting priorities, the task force, headed by oil guru Daniel
Yergin, argues that energy R&D may already have been cut too
much--75% since 1978. The task force report, released on Tuesday,
proposes a relatively modest 15% cut, which it says can be found by
cutting overhead. That's not likely to satisfy Congress. When a reporter
asked where additional cuts might come from, Secretary O'Leary said
she would have to look at
"lower priority programs." "And which programs are those?" the
reporter asked. It was the Secretary's turn to punt.
2. APPROPRIATIONS: SCIENCE GETS A LITTLE HELP FROM ITS
. The process began in earnest this week when the
Committee in the House met to divvy up the money among the 13
subcommittees. The total budget authority for FY 96 is $487B,
$21B below the current year and $50B less than the President's
request. Only defense was spared, but voices ranging from Newt
Gingrich to industry leaders (WN 31 Mar 95) are warning against cutting
too deeply into science. Even a group of mayors from high-tech cities,
ranging from San Jose to Minneapolis, wrote key members of Congress
to say "Science is good for American cities."
3. ENERGY APPROPRIATIONS SUBCOMMITTEE SOFTENS THE BLOW--A
. Last week, an authorizing subcommittee proposed eliminating
five university-based nuclear physics accelerators (WN 9 Jun 95). An
effort to restore the five labs will be made when the bill comes before
the full committee. But appropriators aren't in the habit of sitting around
waiting for authorizers to pass their bills; the Energy and Water
Appropriations Subcommittee restored half of the nuclear physics cut.
Fusion, however, remains stuck at $229M, a cut of 40%. That would
end plans to build TPX at Princeton, and although scientists claim
impressive progress, the existing
TFTR is scheduled for termination. The international fusion project, ITER,
is still alive, but the President's Council of
Advisors on Science and Technology is expected to recommend it be
"descoped" by as much as a third to make it financially viable.
4. GAO ESTIMATES TOTAL SPACE STATION COST THROUGH 2012 AT
Station proponents angrily complained that GAO inflated shuttle costs.
GAO divided the cost of the shuttle program by the number of flights to
get the cost per flight. Station proponents want to use the "marginal"
cost, which would be equivalent to basing airline ticket prices on the
cost of the in-flight meals.
THE AMERICAN PHYSICAL SOCIETY (Note: Opinions are the author's
and are not necessarily shared by the APS, but they should be.)